Bilberry bounty and a camping pancake recipe.
Bilberry, wimberry, whortleberry, blaeberry, Vaccinium myrtillus. Whatever you want to call them, foraging for these tiny flavour bombs is our favourite annual wild food excursion. This year was especially fun as it was the first that Benji was able to get amongst the plants and lend a hand, although, in truth, he ate more than he brought home.
We’re lucky to have an abundant crop of bilberries growing not too far from home on the South Downs. A surprise find a few years ago, they are a happy reminder of our adventures in Sweden and Norway, where bilberries, amongst many other wild fruits such as cranberry, lingonberry and cloudberry, are a more common sight than they are in Sussex.
Bilberries grow in acidic soils typically in dry acid woods, upland heaths and moors. Easily recognisable and capable of carpeting large areas, look for a low shrub with oval leaves and greenish pink bell shaped flowers in spring, followed by small green then purple berries covered with bloom (similar looking to blueberries, only much smaller). They are usually ready to pick from July to September (depending on location - earlier in the south, later in the north). It helps to take a field guide with you but REMEMBER! If you are not 100% sure, ask an expert. Never, ever eat anything foraged if you are not certain it is safe to do so.
We gathered as many as we could and headed home with purple fingers, excited to make bilberry pancakes for breakfast the next morning. They were so good, we decided to try cooking them outdoors to test how easily pancakes could be cooked on a hiking trip with a homemade pre-prepared pancake mix, ready to add any wild fruits found on the trail. Happy with the results, we’ve shared the recipe below. We’d love to know if you try it on your next camping adventure!
Camping Bilberry Pancakes
You will need:
Jar or container for pancake mix
Camping stove (or fire)
Non stick camping sized frying pan (we use a triangia)
Skuleskogens Butter Knife
Bowl/pan to mix the batter (or just store the pancake mix in a container large enough to add the water on top
Ingredients (makes 10 small pancakes):
1 cups of flour (we used 1 of plain and 1 wholemeal spelt)
1/2 cup powdered milk (or powdered rice milk if you are vegan)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
pinch of salt
2 handfulls bilberries (or any wild edible berry)
Maple syrup to serve
Pre prepare your dry pancake mix at home beforehand by mixing the flour, dried milk, sugar, baking powder and salt together and pour into a secure container.
At the campsite:
Mix water into your dried pancake mix until you have a thick, smooth, gloopy batter. Mix in a tablespoon of olive oil and stir in the bilberries. Put a non stick pan on a medium heat and add a little oil. Drop in spoonfuls of the pancake mix and flatten a little. When they start to bubble on the surface, flip them over and cook for a couple of minutes more. Serve warm, straight out of the pan with a generous glug of maple syrup.